By a happy coincidence, a gentleman by the name of Daniel James Sanchez wrote a Daily Article, titled “Mises on Mind and Method,” which was posted yesterday on the Ludwig von Mises Institute website. The annotated article, which covers the same general ground as my post below on Method (except Mr. Sanchez’ article is a far more thorough and academic disquisition on the subject) is excellent. I recommend it to anyone interested in clarity of thought.
I hope the discussion on Method permanently expands to include more and more economic and political commentators. (Paul Krugman comes to mind. The subject is not easy, but then few easy pastimes are worth pursuing. Besides, Krugman was presented a Nobel Prize, so surely he is able to follow the argument.)
We live in a complex, diversified society. The key to making such a society work for all who are in it is a crystal clear understanding of how it is that we know what we know. Ronald Reagan is quoted as saying: “Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so.” I've heard many progressives repeat the same sentiment aimed at their conservative friends.
I continue to believe that there are well-intentioned fellow citizens (Ellen Brown comes to mind) who are sincere in their recommendations aimed at helping us all attain more prosperity and satisfaction in life. However, a faulty understanding of basic epistemological method guides these well-meaning individuals down the wrong fork in the road to knowledge. As a result, they make errors. In time they become ideological crusaders, unable or unwilling to consider other paths, or to see and accept the error in their own reasoning.
Read Mr. Sanchez’ article, but glance at the reader comments. Note how many commentators refuse to accept the most fundamental points of the article only because they are, obviously, emotionally attached to another, easier or favorite method of thinking. If logic and discursive reasoning can’t be the ultimate arbiter of our disputes, we in this society are doomed to mindless and wasteful conflict from now until doomsday.
For myself, I can’t understand how anyone could read the Sanchez article and disagree with it. The logic is clear and straightforward. The case, as I said in my essay, is unassailable. Yet, individuals can’t accept its truth because it doesn’t conform to the way they’re used to thinking about things, or it just doesn’t appeal to their egalitarian outlook, or it just doesn’t “feel” right “for them.” This is not the way adults and reasonable people settle their disagreements, and if we can’t even agree on the basics – the ultimate ground rules for thinking and for the process of accumulating knowledge, what hope is there for continued mutual cooperative action in society?
It would be helpful to me personally and to society in general if some honest individual, who disagrees with Mises, Sanchez and me, could contribute productively to the discussion and make the case against the Method we describe by pointing out exactly where and how our arguments go wrong, are illogical or fallacious. (Paul? Ellen?) In the interest of mutual cooperation and peace, why not give it a shot?